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The ten most loved arthouse films for 2017

David Tiley

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The ten most loved arthouse films for 2017

Image: Manchester by the Sea.

You can find out if you are running with the herd and on the collective money by listing arthouse films by their box office. This means we've had to decide which films are true arthouse, which can provoke a fight in itself. 

Hidden Figures, for instance, was a colossal success and clearly crossed over despite its barriers of race, gender and subject. It made $17.6m at the Australian box office. We reckon it is respectable middle brow, but then several films in our list are pretty close. 

1. The top film in the list is Manchester by the Sea, about a damaged man looking after his nephew, which made $3.17m, pushed by names like Casey Affleck who won the Best Actor Oscar. 

2. Black gay film Moonlight follows,  glowing with its Best Picture Oscar, to make $2.527m.

3. Then we find an Australian film and a documentary to boot. Mountain took an extraordinary $2.02m, helped along by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Jen Peedom's reputation on Sherpa. You could call it a fan base. 

4. Rosalie Blum takes us into familiar arthouse territory - French with subtitles and a comedy/drama to book, labelled as enchanting, wistful and the greatest success of the Alliance Francaise Film Fest in 27 years. Even with all this ammunition, it took only $1.83m.


5. Perfect Strangers, an Italian comedy/drama about a dinner, secrets and the contents of iPhones, managed $1.423m.


6. Your Name is an extraordinary addition. A Japanese animation about adolescence, love and some kind of supernatural connection with two different parallel time frames, it made $1.28m. A specialised anime audience probably helped. 

7. Loving Vincent, the hand painted animation about Van Gogh, has just cleared $1.001m and is still going. We think that is a surprise. 

8. I, Daniel Blake is the latest brutallly truthy social realist film from Ken Loach. He has life-long fans and engages deeply with our times. $870,000 despite the grimness. This is the first film in the list which is a hard ask to watch. 

9. The Country Doctor has a brain tumour, middle aged love, a man confronting the loss of his identity and Francois Cluzet and Marianne Denicourt. The 709,000 for this is well down on the figure it would have secured five years ago. 

10. Final Portrait. Back to English, featuring Geoffrey Rush, all about the Italian painter Giacometti. $651,000. Maybe too genteel for arthouse so we have added one more. 

10. The King's Choice. Polished, Scandinavian, true story, royalty, good tension, cars and crockery, minimal guns. $634,000.

The remarkable thing about this list is the number of films that cluster around the $500,000.  Madame, Land of Mine, The Promise, The Midwife, I am Heath Ledger, Paterson, The Salesman and The Fencer are all between $450,000 and $580,000 with the half million as a mid-point. 

Is this peak specialist, where audiences look for art but also for entertainment? Most of them are probably in Melbourne, followed by Sydney with a scattering in the other capitals. Toni Erdmann at 322,000 seems to have been too hard for them. 

But then the challenging The Killing of the Sacred Dear is already at $577,000 and is still in cinemas. The received wisdom is that the Palace monthly parade of festivals is sucking audiences from these films, so they offer a lot of pictures that entice truly specialist audiences on a few screenings. That is neat way of maximising returns on the whole arthouse slate but is not so hot for pictures outside that system. 

About the author

David Tiley is the editor of Screen Hub.